Thursday, May 30, 2024

Consultation underway on winter grazing regulations

Consultation is underway on proposed changes to intensive winter grazing regulations that will make them more practical for farmers, Environment Minister David Parker and Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor announced today. 

Intensive winter grazing is a farming practice where livestock, such as cattle and sheep, are grazed on paddocks planted with fodder crops. When done poorly it can have serious negative effects on water quality and animal welfare, the Minister said.

“The Government has been working with industry representatives and regional councils this winter to roll out on-the-ground support to drive better practices to benefit freshwater quality and animal welfare.”

“It’s important that what we develop is workable. That’s why we’re proposing amendments to manage the effects of pugging, get paddocks re-sown as soon as possible, and protect critical source areas.” 

Under the proposed changes, farmers would be required to re-sow grazed paddocks as soon as conditions allow, instead of by a set date. Specific requirements around the depth of pugging would also be removed.  

“We’ve been listening to farmers and earlier this year changed our proposed approach to low slope maps and I encourage farmers to have their say on practical ways to improve intensive winter grazing,” Mr O’Connor said. 

“Under the proposal, farmers wanting to undertake intensive winter grazing on slopes over 10 degrees can do so with a certified freshwater farm plan that includes controls to prevent soil loss and mitigate the risks associated with a higher slope,” Minister Parker said. 

View of hay bales on a frosty morning, Queenstown, New Zealand

“Scientific evidence shows that with intensive winter grazing at 15 degrees, twice as much soil will be lost than if planted at 10 degrees. If mitigation can prevent soil loss that can be reflected in farm plans,” he said. 

The Government today released the intensive winter grazing consultation documents and is seeking feedback from farmers and regional councils. 

“We recognise it’s a busy time of the year on-farm and that the country is dealing with the Delta outbreak. But, overlapping with existing consultation being undertaken for certified freshwater farm plans and stock exclusion, low slope maps will make it easier for farmers to have input,” Mr O’Connor said. 

“To help provide farmers with certainty, the introduction of intensive winter grazing practice regulations is proposed to be deferred for a further six months until 1 November 2022.” 

He said the Government was working alongside sector groups including farmers and eNGOs, to develop the integrated farm planning approach, with the aim of providing farmers and growers with a practical tool to meet requirements. 

“This set of proposed regulations has come about from working steadily with industry leaders and councils on how we achieve the right result in a practical way,” Minister O’Connor said. 

Improving freshwater health and management is part of the Government’s Essential Freshwater package. 

Consultation runs for six weeks until 7 October 2021. The consultation document and online submission forms are available on the Ministry for the Environment’s website: https://consult.environment.govt.nz/freshwater/intensive-winter-grazing-regulations/

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